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The Rocky Mountains roll right to the edges of the city meaning your trip to the trailhead doesn’t have to be long at all. Downtown Denver is only 19.0km from the foothills of the Rockies, but the sprawl spills right to edge. To the east there are the High Plains. There is fly-fishing, skiing, mountain biking and of course great hiking in Denver and the populous city has lots to do outside of the Rockies too.
Denver International Airport is the obvious choice. From there, you’ll head west to the opposite side of the city to find all the best hiking. There are smaller airports you can fly into. Colorado Springs Airport is the second busiest airport in the State, but it isn’t any closer than DEN. Plus, if you don’t fly into Denver you’ll miss out on Denver Airports eerie Murals and enraged looking blue horse! Denver Airport is a hot spot for weirdness and because of this is laced with conspiracy theories; it’s worth a Google.
Many of the trails in this region are most popular with locals, and crowds at weekends are higher than during the week. We recommend planning your trip between late spring and fall this is the best time for weather and crowds. Summer can be chaotic weather-wise as it’s been known to switch from sun to cold rain showers in a heartbeat just after noon.
Average monthly temperature and precipitation:
Denver’s city website has a list of great ways to get around without a car including the airport rail which will take you into Denver from the airport. All that being said, it might be difficult to get to multiple trailheads without a car. Many of the hikes we list are in different parks and because of this a car makes getting around much easier. You can find some bus and train combinations that can get you within an hour walk of a few trailheads, but a mix of transit and taxi/uber would be the only way to avoid renting a car or bike.
Being so close to the mountains means it doesn’t really matter where you are based, you can get to the trailheads quickly. We like to combine a morning of hiking, when the trails are their most quiet, with exploring the downtown core later in the day. That being said, we do have options outside city if you want your trip to be quieter.
Let’s start with luxury, and with a hiking trip to the mountains of Colorado in mind, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention Highland Haven Creekside Inn. Although this delightfully quaint and luxurious B&B isn’t in Denver, the city of Evergreen, where it is located, isn’t too far from any of the hikes. Evergreen is only a 40-minute drive from Denver Downtown, and is closer to a handful of the hikes.
Our downtown luxury pick is “the ART, a hotel”. Located in the Art District of Denver you are close to museums here, which is a big plus for some. It’s not as luxurious as the Ritz, but it is unique and new.
For a more middling priced option, we recommend Lumber Baron Inn & Gardens. It’s a quaint B&B with an old western style, four-poster beds and a very welcoming staff. The furniture and finishing will be dated, but in a way that enhances the aesthetic.
If you’re looking for a hostel that is in the heart of downtown try Hostel Fish. It’s not as cheap as most Hostels, but it makes up for it with style and proximity to downtown.
If you want affordable options outside of the city we’d recommend looking at the Air BnB selection in Idledale and Genesee. There is something for everyone on that list, from $3500 mountain top mansion to a $70 bedroom in someone’s house.
And finally, since this is a hiking trip, why not get out in nature? Camping is always a treat, especially if you have the option to drive into Colorado and can therefore bring your gear with you. You can book campgrounds on the Camping in Colorado Website.
If you have a larger group and are in the mood for something fun and fancy try El Five. All their menu items are meant to be shared: tapas style. The flavours are Spanish/middle-eastern with nouveau techniques.
Fruition, is on nearly everyone’s best meals lists for Denver, and for good reason. They source a large amount of their food from their personal 10-acre farm, they make great, upscale meals, and they change the menu with the seasons. You can feel good eating here if you’ve just spent a day in nature and want to be connected to the ecology of the area.
If pizza is on your mind – and let’s be honest, when is it not – try Cattivella. There is cheaper pizza in town, but a better quality might be hard to beat. Our recommendation is to hit up their happy hour (Monday, Sunday 4-6) for a more simple selection of pizzas at half the price.
For some cheaper quick bites try Classic Eats Deli in West Colfax. It’s open all-day, but it makes a great lunch or breakfast option. They have great sandwiches, soups, and salads. Or, if you’re on your way out to the trailheads try Louis’ Cafe in Golden it’s just open for lunch and breakfast, but it’s cheap and quick with a Mexican twist.
In Evergreen try Blackbird Tavern for good burgers, sandwiches, and a charming atmosphere. If you want a locally made “grown-up-pop” try Lariat Lodge Brewing voted the best brewpub in Denver, there is live music on weekends and a basic pub menu with inventive twists thrown in here and there.
Denver has lots to offer any tourist (so long as they can deal with the altitude).
The Denver Botanical Gardens has two different locations each offering different experiences. One location with different sections of different plant life and different constructions and landscape designs. The other is more of a farm setting with butterflies from May to September and a corn maze from September to October.
Denver is also a jumping off point for a selection of Ski Hills, like Echo Mountain or Winter Park Ski Resort. In the summer, when the skiing isn’t as good, there is good fly-fishing around Denver and many different companies that will offer to guide your exhibition, like The Flyfisher Guide Service.
Be sure to check out Denver’s own city attractions as well, like Union Station 16th street Mall, or the US Mint. If you need something refreshing in the afternoon you can visit one of the many breweries in town. There are some good brewpubs in Denver but if you’re a little more classic, keep in mind that Denver is home to the Coors brewery.
- The ground is more loose and stony than you might expect, so have good ankle support to reduced the risk of turning an ankle
- There are some bears and cougars in Colorado. Most importantly, do not run from either. This page from Boulder Colorado has more insight.
- Rattlesnakes can come out in early spring and late fall, so never wear headphones while hiking, that way you can hear them. Wear long pants and high boots and don’t stick your hand in somewhere you can see.
- In summer the weather can turn for the worse on a dime so always pack layers and a waterproof shell.
- With Denver being at such a high elevation in the first place, if you decide to hike up a peak be sure you can handle the elevation. You can experience altitude sickness over 3000m in elevation. If coming from sea level be aware of the impact on your body of the change in elevation. Start with shorter hikes and try and sleep below 3000m.